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Group formed to look after Lake Ronkonkoma

A view of Lake Ronkonkoma at Lake Ronkonkoma

A view of Lake Ronkonkoma at Lake Ronkonkoma County Park. (July 22, 2010) Credit: Brittany Wait

Suffolk County and the three towns bordering Lake Ronkonkoma are joining forces to preserve and enhance the ecologically sensitive body of water.

Officials are forming the Lake Ronkonkoma Watershed Intermunicipal Organization to jointly address environmental problems facing the lake, such as stormwater and fertilizer runoff, sewage discharges and invasive nonnative plants.

Suffolk, Brookhaven and Islip have agreed to join the effort. The Smithtown board is expected Tuesday to approve a measure to join the group.

Officials said they hope the organization helps restore the luster of the popular 240-acre swimming hole, parts of which were periodically closed in recent summers due to excessive bacteria and blue-green algae.

"I think it's recognition that Lake Ronkonkoma plays such an important role in the economy, in the recreation of folks around western Suffolk County," said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore).

"The lake at one time used to be an attraction for folks throughout Long Island, and over time, unfortunately, I think it's been neglected. So we're all hopeful that this will be sort of a kick-start to an effort to revitalize the lake itself and the area around the lake."

The organization would meet several times a year and include representatives of the county and the towns of Brookhaven, Islip and Smithtown, all of which have parks and open space along the water's edge. The group is modeled after similar ones formed by governmental bodies around Lake George and the Finger Lakes.

Through the group, Suffolk and the towns will be eligible to tap into state grants for preserving inland waterways. Officials said state funds could assist in developing amenities such as boat ramps and beaches, and projects that would stem the flow of fertilizers that carry nitrogen into the lake.

"Other areas have been wildly successful with this, with a thriving local economy," said Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset). "Who hasn't been to Lake George?"

George Schramm, president of the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Organization, said residents no longer would have to lobby four separate entities to address issues such as goose proliferation.

"We could then sit down and all the municipalities could maybe all arrive at a common solution to the problem of goose control," he said. "If we're successful, then maybe it doesn't cost the towns anything."

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